‘Significantly better situation’: Germany’s Covid danger level downgraded for first time in six months

About six months after officially designating Germany as a “very high” risk area, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has downgraded the danger level.

'Significantly better situation': Germany's Covid danger level downgraded for first time in six months
Two young people enjoying the sun in Lübeck on Tuesday. The RKI predicts Covid figures will fall further in the summer. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Ulrich Perrey

The new level has now fallen from “very high” to “high”, announced Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) on Tuesday in Berlin. It had been upgraded on December 11th.

Spahn said the downgrade was possible given the falling infection rates and the easing of pressure in intensive care units in Germany. 

“The situation is getting significantly better,” Spahn said, “but we are still in the middle of this pandemic.”

He said the new assessment is “a signal” that the very difficult situation posed by the second and then the third coronavirus wave has broken. But there is still a high risk, he said. 

If people were not careful, the situation could change very quickly and deteriorate yet again, he added.

The current 7-day incidence stands at 35.2, up from 35.1 on Monday. However, the numbers are significantly down from a week ago, when the incidence stood at 58.4. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s emergency brake ‘set to expire’ amid low Covid figures

The downgrade does not have a direct impact on current coronavirus measures. “There is no legal basis for the RKI assessment to have a direct consequence,” Spahn said. 

Still, Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday said it was “very likely” that the countrywide emergency brake measures would be discontinued at the end of June, as more public life continues to open up.”

RKI head Lothar Wieler explained that the agency coordinates with various countries around the world when it comes to classifications. A lower risk means that other countries could revise their travel warnings for Germany, for example. 

Wieler said the possibility of people in Germany becoming infected has decreased, but it still exists, he said. 

Germany could also be upgraded again in the risk assessment “purely theoretically” if the situation worsens again.

Summer cases to decline

Also on Tuesday, Wieler cautioned that many millions of people in Germany have not yet been vaccinated – about 43 percent have so far gotten a first jab – so only cautious opening steps are possible. 

Based on modelling, he said, the RKI assumes that cases will plateau or drop over the summer, and that the burden in intensive care units will become lower and lower over the next eight weeks.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister predicts 90 percent of people who want vaccine will have one by mid-July

It is a great success that the third wave has been broken, Wieler said. “Now we have to use this success to further reduce the infection numbers. Let’s use the summer to do that.”

In order to do away with the bulk of the measures, “more than 80 percent” of people in the country would need to have immune protection through full vaccination, or recovery from an infection, the RKI president reiterated.

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Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.